Restaurant review: The menu is filled with options so beguiling that we have a hard job choosing
Eastern Seaboard, Bryanstown Centre, Drogheda, Co Louth. (041) 9802570, glasgow-diaz.com/eastern-seaboard-restaurant
I remember being underwhelmed the first time I arrived to eat at Eastern Seaboard a few years ago and discovering that it was located in a strip mall of shops on the outskirts of town - I'd been expecting something more scenic, and definitely something by the sea. Last week, my lunch guest had the same reaction when we pulled up outside, but I doubt that the owners, Jeni Glasgow and Reuven Diaz, are about to change the name of their restaurant - or relocate it to the coast - just to appease us.
I've grown tired of identikit lunch spots in Dublin, the proliferation of places that serve breakfast masquerading as lunch - eggs, avocados, a few ribbons of pickle, sourdough, a slice of chorizo thrown in for excitement - food that I'm perfectly capable of knocking up myself at home, and the yawning chasm that exists between those and the 'proper' lunch places best suited to days when the afternoon ahead is blissfully free of obligation.
So it's an absolute delight to sit down at Eastern Seaboard and find a menu filled with options so beguiling that we have a hard job limiting ourselves to an appropriate amount of food.
This is a large restaurant, and on a Tuesday lunchtime there are only a few tables occupied. There are shades of nightclub about the décor, which I imagine comes into its own at night when the room is full. But the tables are decorated with gourds and seasonal foliage, and it's clear that someone has gone to a real effort to make the place look attractive. There's an effort too from the staff - a warm welcome, and a general cheeriness that has become the exception rather than the rule.
And it's evident from the menu that effort and commitment has gone into the sourcing of hyper-local ingredients too, without any of that (sometimes po-faced) nonsense about not using citrus and olive oil. The hinterland here is the Boyne Valley, home to a growing band of fine local producers, many of whom feature on the menu. Take a bow The Wooded Pig, Ballymakenny Farm, Drummond House, Dollop, Cockagee, Listoke, Boyne Valley Bán and Bellingham Blue - you are all only fabulous.
On offer are plates large and small, and a handful of specials. Between two, we order five of the smaller dishes, which turns out to be quite a lot of food.
Courgette fries in a perfect tempura batter are fantastically (I mean that in a good way) hot and crunchy, topped with a flurry of micro-planed Parmesan, and Japanese-style Karaage chicken wings (free-range, I asked) a deep-fried delight, with a subtly sweet soy and leek topping.
'Famous' crab cakes merit the moniker - unusually all crab and very little else by way of filler to bulk things out - if perhaps not the €15 price tag, which seems a tad hefty given the modest portion. But crisp fried shell-on baby prawns - 'eat 'em whole,' exhorts the menu, and we do - with a chilli vinegar dipping sauce are a delicious steal at €6.50.
The only dish of the five that underwhelms is one of aged beef short-rib and pan-seared scallops, in which the beef lacks the unctuous, rich depth of flavour that one might have hoped for; the scallops are properly sweet and impeccably cooked.
We finish up with a portion of baked Japanese-style cheesecake with yuzu cream that reminds me of nothing so much as the Madeira cake that you might be forced to eat in the home of an elderly relative. It's grim.
Our bill - with some salted Marcona almonds, a single glass of Pinot Noir (from a list that's full of interest), a large bottle of water and a double espresso - comes to €73.25 before service.
A few doors along is the Brown Hound Bakery, also owned by Jeni Glasgow and Reuven Diaz, a cool little café with a retail bakery that wouldn't look out of place in London or New York. A little box of rather lovely cakes for the folks at home sets us back €11.50.
ON A BUDGET
Mushroom and ginger potstickers with a side of noodles will set you back €11.
ON A BLOW OUT
Wooded Pig charcuterie, rib-eye steak with all the trimmings and local Boyne Valley Bán and Bellingham Blue cheese for two will cost €124 before drinks or service.
THE HIGH POINT
A restaurant making a real effort to be creative - and succeeding.
THE LOW POINT
That misguided cheesecake.